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I think I worry too much about my family, but don't know how to stop.

(178 Posts)
greenmossgiel Sat 12-Nov-11 20:16:48

It's a 'mother' thing, I suppose, but how do we learn to step back and let them get on with their lives without the constant worry about if they're ok? My eldest daughter is settled well, and deals with day-to-day stuff in an organised way. Her younger sister lives a chaotic lifestyle and cannot apply herself as her sister does - in fact she's the total opposite! There are times when her life falls into more chaos, and I go along to pick up the pieces again, usually financial. My son seems to be getting his life together again, after having dealt with his own issues. Dealing with these issues were very hard for us both, and he needed strong support from me. Now, I realise, I'm finding it so very hard to stop worrying and needing to always hear from him to make sure he's ok. I have recognised that this probably isn't a good thing, but find it hard to stop....I'm always thinking 'I haven't heard from him today - what if he's not ok?' or 'Why isn't she answering her phone - is she feeling low again?' I've always been a worrier, and I know I'm not doing them any good being this way, but I don't know how to stop!

Charlotta Sun 13-Nov-11 21:01:42

I'll continue as I lost my post before it was corrected.

It may be a mother's thing but the question is who made us feel that we were responsiblle for our children's happiness even when they had left home? There was a attitude that MUM was always to blame if anything went wrong.
Their happiness and well being is in their own hands just as our happiness and well being is in our hands and that since we left home.

Butternut Sun 13-Nov-11 21:09:32

As many of you have recognised, 'worrying' is a form of stress, which has it's roots in past unpleasant experiences, and is a way of coping with that.

HildaW - I hope you are successful in having some CBT. It can be a very effective way of highlighting the triggers that promote stress (worrying), and provides a good structure in identifying how you can manage it.
I have issues with PTSD, and have found CBT a worthwhile avenue to follow.

All the best.

Carol Sun 13-Nov-11 21:18:58

I am happy and relaxed about my family when things are ok with thm, and I know when to step back and leave them to shoulder the responsibility. When pretty awful things have happened to them, as they have over this last year or so, I have naturally worried and wanted them well and safe. After such experiences, it does take a while to settle back down and leave it to them. I would call cancer, hostile relationship breakups, loss of contact with a child and grandchild for several months, and health scares to tiny children pretty worrying. I'm not clear about where blame has been attributed Charlotta? I live in a close family and will celebrate their successes and grieve with them, or worry when things are dire. When I left home to get married, I received very little support, and found that daunting. There is a balance to be struck between cosseting and enabling our children to stand on their own two feet, but sometimes life's blows call for a family to rally round and help each other through.

Annobel Sun 13-Nov-11 21:29:54

Wise words, Charlotta. I'm with you, but don't think it was so much that 'mum was always to blame' as that mum was always there to pick up the pieces. I've picked up plenty in my time and maybe it's their turn now; in fact, I can see this already happening, but they would seem to have inherited my pragmatic attitude.
Being almost incapable of worry doesn't mean I am unsympathetic to more sensitive souls. Far from it; I think/hope I am a good listener.

Carol Sun 13-Nov-11 21:40:01

I think you've encapsulated what I've been trying to express Annobel. It's when mums like me are in no position to pick up pieces that they tend to worry. All we can do is be there to offer support, listen and hope for things to come right in the end.

HildaW Sun 13-Nov-11 22:04:20

Butternut, thanks for good wishes. I do fully understand that my over sensitivity to anxiety is a learned response. I've had a lot to cope with and as I was always seen as the coping cabable one I just took it all on board. Now, I have little resilience to even silly little things on a bad day and I need to stop that. The daft thing is that I needed to feel a bit better before I went to the Drs so that I could explain all without falling apart. You have to be sort of 'out the other side' before you can communicate your problems.

I have pushed myself to do some voluntary work and get involved in community (weve moved twice in 2 years.....just a small part of all that I've had on plate). It helps to put others first of course but if you are a bit emotionally unstable yourself you have to be a bit sensible about what you can do.

Anyway, its been a lovely sunny day today have spoken to both daughters on phone and got the washing dry!

greenmossgiel Sun 13-Nov-11 22:18:21

The support has to be offered so carefully though. I suppose sometimes what we experience isn't worry, but fear. When your family don't actually come to you with the problem, but it's patently obvious that there's something very serious happening, then, as Carol explained, it's impossible to pick up the pieces. Always, at the back of your mind is, 'what if...?' Common sense kicks in now and again, though - like when my son says, 'There's no need to worry so much, Mum, things always work out in the end!'

JessM Mon 14-Nov-11 14:05:33

mm - wrote a response this morning that does not seem to have appeared on forum. Anyone else had that experience lately?

My response above was meant with compassion and was not unconsidered. And certainly not speaking from the point of view of complacency or having had an easy life.
It is horrible feeling worried all the time. It is also horrible being worried about all the time.
The OP was AIBU - and I think the answer is no, it is understandable, but if you keep worrying when things are no longer in crisis then you are not doing yourself or your offspring any favours.
'a few sessions" meant to imply that it does not necessarily need months or years of therapy, just a bit of focussed help from a professional. Sometimes we cannot get out of these patterns by ourselves and sympathy from others is nice, but does not move us on.

Carol Mon 14-Nov-11 14:41:13

Yes, agree with that JessM. Being self indulgent, rather than using the opportunity to offload, get advice and move on, gets you nowhere. I have seen Gransnet forums used very constructively, and for me, being able to see a range of perspectives is helpful. There are a some wise women knocking about on here, and I have valued reading their opinions.

JessM Mon 14-Nov-11 15:54:31

I wouldn't use the words self indulgent Carol. Sympathy has its place and sometimes we need a bit of it. But I don't think it ever helps anyone to change, if that is what they want to do.
I always remember the day after Phillips Odowu did NOT get a gold medal for the triple jump in the Bejing Olympics (just a silver). Deeply disappointed in the BBC studio. Emotions always very visible. Sue Barker was sympathetic. Colin Jackson empathised - I know what its like. Phillips stayed downcast and even closer to tears.
Michael Johnson asked him a question - once he was over the disappointment, what was he going to do? This had a miraculous effect - he completely changed his demeanour and talked about how he was determined to go on and become world and olympic champion.
One down (world) one to go... Johnson has fantastic coaching skills which are similar to counselling skills.

sueev Mon 14-Nov-11 16:06:49

Sure it's a "Mother" thing- worrying about your children is part of being a Mum. I'm now 70 and struggle like others to control the worry. What I find most difficult is that it's hard to help grown up children when they have problems. No longer does a cuddle and a sticking plaster do the trick!
I've worked hard to control unneccessary worries- but serious illness and unemployment have recently made it difficult with one of my 40 something "children". I do what I can on a practical basis and make sure that my children know that I love them dearly and will always support them in anything they decide to do. Also that they can talk to me about absolutely anything- and they do!
I often say it was bringing up teenage daughters that turned my hair prematurely white- but I wouldn't be without my family for anything. In fact in my case they were the only good thing to come out of a bad marriage.

greenmossgiel Mon 14-Nov-11 16:43:01

sueev, - oh, if only a sticking plaster still did the trick! Many comforting cuddles have been given, and in doing that I'm sure we give reassurance that we'll be there for them whatever happens. I suppose it's just that we don't want them to feel the worry and pain that we felt when things went drastically wrong for us when we were their age. These days though, it does seem so much worse. So many pressures, such as unemployment and other added issues that didn't raise their heads for us, make it seem worse. Like you, my children were the only good thing to come out of a horrible marriage, and I would do anything for them.

mickey Mon 14-Nov-11 18:50:34

My mother was a world class worrier too-and I have inherited it. It's got worse as I've got older. In fact when there is nothing to worry about ,I worry about that.It.s as if having the worry is better than the suspense waiting for ir-how daft. Oh buggar-I've turned into my mother. Help. I don't worry about my kids so much now they are older though-unless a real crisis occurs I think they grow by working things out themselves.

JessM Mon 14-Nov-11 19:29:10

My mother used to say she started worrying when I was still a foetus - a midwife said she couldn't hear my heart during early labour. I think a lot of people start worrying when they are new parents - nature's way of making us protective. I also think my mother learned it from her parents. She was a sickly child (as were most of them in those pre-war days) and then bombs started dropping in the Swansea Blitz (which was really severe). Worrying times indeed.
I often thought that the worst thing about having breast cancer was having to tell my mother - which is a bit sad really isn't it. If I had been living in another city I probably would not have told her.
I once went on a motor bike pillion trip to France with my DH soon after I met him (I was 40, foolish young thing that I was.). I swore both sons to secrecy where my mother was concerned - she assumed we went by car. Not a good thing to have done in retrospect.

bagitha Mon 14-Nov-11 19:35:22

Why, jess? Why did your mother need to know you were on a motorbike when you were forty?

Annobel Mon 14-Nov-11 19:41:05

Living in Kenya, 4000 miles from my mother, was very liberating for me. She didn't need to know what I was getting up to - camping rough in the bush, driving through flooding rivers, swimming with crocs - not that I found out about that myself until after the event. Don't know what she thought I was doing...

gracesmum Mon 14-Nov-11 19:55:57

Some interesting food for thought here. First, I am so glad I am not alone to be a "worrywart" and I would find it hard to say whether I worry more when there are problems or whether life is going well (and I am anticipating that big celestial "Mony Python" foot descending from a great height.)
Second, I do think that worrying is a necessary part of caring - if you don't care, you don't give a whatsit. The danger I see in myself though is that worrying can take over as a definitive form of caring. For instance, I used to be relatively cool about when eldest DD got in (we are talking 11 pm as opposed to 10 and from things like Young Farmers - not clubbing into the wee sma' hours)until I overheard her say "Oh Mum doesn't care what time I get in" - obviously appearing too cool!! From that day to this (20 years later) I am unable to sleep if any of them are out and coming home late - and they have all lived away from home for over 10 years. It has become a fact of life. If they were going to be very late I would suggest they sleepover at a friend's - so that her Mum could do the worrying!
I also think distance plays a large part. When we lived in London in the 70's I took the threats of IRA bombs pretty much in my stride whereas my mother in Scotland was convinced we were about to be blown up on a daily basis. She heard about the bombs - I saw how low the risk actually was.
I, like many of you, am a natural worrier, but am coming to recognise that if my daughters are to be open with me, I need to curb the expression of that worry and play it as cool as I can. The only consolation is that deep down I know that they too will worry themselves to shreds about their own children one day. It is not wrong to set out some ground rules like regular communication so that the only time you hear from them is NOT when some catastrophe has happened but also to "touch base".

JessM Mon 14-Nov-11 20:30:40

bagitha - hi, if she had known she would have been "worried sick" and made herself completely miserable the whole time i was gone. So I ended up getting my sons to collude in keeping it from her. sad
She had me trained to consider her worrying. She used it as a way of trying to control us in our teens. Didn't stop me getting up to all kinds of stuff she never knew about.

bagitha Mon 14-Nov-11 20:48:31

Well, that's what I thought, jess. That's why I was puzzled by your comment at the end saying "not a good thing to have done in retrospect". Surely it was a good thing to have done given that she would only have worried herself sick?

My mum hadn't a clue what I was getting up to when I was forty! wink

JessM Mon 14-Nov-11 20:58:31

Oh well it was good for her but not for the boys I think.

bagitha Mon 14-Nov-11 21:02:25

Perhaps not, but kids do love secrets. I'll bet it didn't do them any lasting harm.

greenmossgiel Mon 14-Nov-11 21:53:51

JessM - I know what you mean when you said that about your mum controlling you by saying she'd be worried about you! My own mother did the same with me (and of course, if only she'd known what I was up to, she'd have had been horrified, let alone worried!) Maybe we do pick up the habit of worrying from our mothers - mine was well-known for it. She always had that look of 'furrowed brow', bless her.

crimson Mon 14-Nov-11 23:04:54

I worried about my kids because of the things I got up to when I was young. However, when they got older and started teling me about the things they did do, I realised what I'd been worrying about was nothing compared to the things they'd been getting up to which I hadn't thought about.

gracesmum Tue 15-Nov-11 09:54:02

You have to care to worry, I think, but shouldn't confuse the too - allowing worry to take over can be destructive in its own right and the expression of worry should not be seen as an expression of caring. I mean, not worrying doea not mean not caring. Does that sound harsh? I don't mean it too as I am the world's greatest worrier, but I have to force myself to keep many worries to myself.

Charlotta Tue 15-Nov-11 11:06:45

Sorry Carol
You have misunderstood me. I was writing objectively about the conditioning of parents , especially mothers who were made to feel responsible for the failures of their children to lead adequate, successful lives. Even today the women in the family are desperate (some times) to achieve harmony in the family, and at no time more than at Christmas. I don't think men worry about these things.

This attitude was based on psychological research in the 60s and 70s. I don't think it is now so accepted, but a lot of blame is still laid at the doors of mothers who failed in one context or another, without any consideration of the hurdles these mothers had to overcome just to raise the child at all.